“Good morning! How’d you
sleep?” That’s a phrase many of us hear from time to time.
If you stop to think about it, we humans spend an extraordinary
amount of time in life dedicated to sleep. Perhaps second only to working hours
(or these days, to screen time), sleep looms large in our daily lives.
What’s so important about sleep? A National Sleep Foundation poll
found that, “among U.S.
adults with excellent sleep health, nearly 90 percent say they feel very
effective at getting things done each day, compared to only 46 percent of those
with poor sleep health.”
terms, we see that sleep is a blessing from the Lord. Psalm
127:1-2 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it
labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman
stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.”
Yet I know many people who walk around feeling systematically
sleep-deprived. There are many reasons for this. Perhaps your job is at odd
hours, making good sleep hard to come by. Perhaps you have a full house of kids
or people you are taking care of that make sleep difficult. It could even be
feelings of guilt or worry are robbing you of sleep. You may even have a sleep
disorder or medical condition.
What can we do when we have trouble sleeping? Though I’m no
expert, here are few ideas:
- Put away
technology. The “blue glowing light” of screens beckons us away from many
important things, including sleep. I heard someone advise to put our phones and
screens to bed one hour before you go to bed, which can only help.
- Read a
book. Before you pop a sleeping pill, go the old-fashioned way of
reading a book before bed. As a Christian, we believe we must prioritize
reading God’s Word each day. But don’t be afraid also to read some light
fiction, or just a book you enjoy, before lights out.
- Get into a
routine. I know someone who is a self-described “night owl.” This person
ends up staying up late and sleeping in late, and seems always to walk around
tired. The explorers Lewis and Clark said that one hour of sleep before
midnight is worth more toward restfulness than several hours after midnight.
Re-evaluate your schedule, if you are sleep deprived.
- Pray. Christian writers have long upheld the
idea of morning and evening prayers. There is something significant about
beginning each day in prayer to God, and ending each day before God. We don’t
pray to Him so that we can sleep. We pray and “He gives to His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2).
These are just a few ideas, none of which require medication,
which I have found helpful, to go with whatever ideas you may have.
All this being said, there can be days when suggestions like these
just don’t work. You go to bed and just stay wide awake. And that’s okay.
Whether in plenty of sleep or little, may God show each of us how to put Him
first and how to give thanks in all things.
whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”
(1 Cor. 10:31).
No matter how you feel about your kids and/or your spouse, the
empty nest takes a little more getting used to than you might think. Without
forethought and planning, the life stage you have been told is wonderful could
become extremely stressful instead, as you will continue to parent in all the
challenging ways, like giving money and advice and solving unforeseen problems,
while no longer enjoying the perks of parenting, like face time, casual
conversation, and daily affection.
This being true, Todd and I led a breakout at the annual
marriage retreat put on by Oklahoma Baptists last week and shared some tips
with couples who are quickly approaching this life stage.
Here they are:
forward to something is almost as much fun as living it and often improves the
actual experience when it comes. Just as you looked forward to marrying your
spouse, daydreamed about what life with them would be like, and groomed
yourself for the experience, do so for the empty nest. Yes, there will be
sadness in the goodbyes to your children, but anticipating joy on the other
side of those goodbyes will soften that hurt, making the transition easier for
the two of you and your children. It doesn’t help homesick children to know
that their parents aren’t happy without them.
Plan. The first
day. The first week. The first month. The first year and beyond. Big things.
Small things. As you anticipate the empty nest, fill your imagination and your
calendar with new things that will help you celebrate your freedom as a couple.
Fill any potentially awkward or melancholy spaces with happy details tailored just
for the two of you: food you didn’t eat when the kids were home, shows you
didn’t watch, places you didn’t go, fellowship with people you weren’t free to
visit, staying out late on a school night. If college doesn’t have you pinching
pennies, you could plan a trip, but
camping out in the living room in pj’s the kids never got to see can be just as
much, if not more, fun!
spouse. The older your kids get, the crazier their schedules become,
requiring the whole family to flex and sacrifice at times. If we aren’t
careful, we can get in the habit of expecting
our spouse to give instead of asking, assigning their needs a backseat to our
kids’. Stop, take stock, and make sure you haven’t done this.Remember, you married your spouse to
become one with them. Together, you
welcomed your children into the family you had already formed, but their
presence shouldn’t alter the balance of what existed before they arrived.
If you’ve gotten out of the habit, get into the habit of
considering your spouse’s needs before your children’s, asking them to flex and sacrifice when necessary instead of
expecting, giving them a voice in all family planning even if it’s logistically
inconvenient to include them, and voicing the importance of your spouse’s
identity as an equal member with you of the family core to your children, so
they will grow up with a healthy understanding of God’s design for marriage and
family. It’s not a bad thing to ask the kids to flex for Mom or Dad either. Asking
your spouse to flex and sacrifice won’t mean much if the person being asked
can’t say “no.”
Set or reestablish
boundaries for your children. Your children don’t call the shots. They live
in your house with the people who own it and are in charge of them in the eyes
of God and the law. They need to do what you say. If you haven’t established
time, space, and property boundaries with your children, do so now. If you wait
until they move out, the sudden change will make them feel pushed out instead
of sent off, making the separation process more complicated and painful than it
needs to be.
As a couple, set aside space in your house that is just for
the two of you unless your children ask permission to enter and require them to
knock before entering. Carve out regular time that’s just for the two of you. It
doesn’t hurt the kids to be sent to their room early in the evenings so you can
have alone time or stay in their rooms longer on weekend mornings so the two of
you can have a date at home. Require your children to check with you before
making any plans that will require you to alter yours and require their friends
to call before coming over to make sure it’s okay. Require your kids to ask
permission to use anything that isn’t theirs or doesn’t clearly belong to the
Once the kids leave, set rules for coming home, like calling
first and letting you know by midweek whether or not they plan to come home for
the weekend so you can anticipate and plan couple time, even if your plans are
to have no plans—which is its own kind of wonderful after years of living on
the go—and don’t let them come home last minute if they said they weren’t going
Maintain, kindle, or
rekindle romance. If the fire is burning, keep it stoked. If it never was,
find out where you can get yourself some flint and a rock—seriously, help is
out there if you look for it. If it was burning, but isn’t now, do what you did
before. If that doesn’t work, educate yourself.
The problem in many marriages is that kids come along before
couples have a chance to fully explore and enjoy each other as people, friends,
and lovers. Wherever they happen to be at the time is where they freeze,
thinking, saying, and doing things that may or may not have worked once, but definitely
don’t hold up over time. Fire needs fuel to burn, and romance needs continued intentional
investment from both partners to flourish.
If you don’t know it already, find out your spouse’s love
language and speak it. Flirt, focus, and learn how to loosen up and have fun
with your forever date. Consider your bedroom a playground and enjoy recess to
the full. God wants you to (Song of Solomon 5:1)!
Bottom line, your
empty nest is going to be whatever you put in the time and effort to make
it. Get to feathering now, and you’ll
enjoy one of the most gratifying rewards you’ve ever earned.
No one likes to
We spend a great
deal of time and effort covering our faults. We hope the world around us sees
and experiences the best version of ourselves at every turn. We don’t want to make
At the same time,
we know we are broken creatures. For every fault we conceal, another rises to
the surface. We find ourselves exposing the worst versions of ourselves – often
to those we love the most. Our words can hit targets at which we never aimed.
Maybe a tone is perceived wrong. Perhaps we brought up an issue in innocence
that is tender to another. Maybe we forgot.
Despite our best
efforts, we do make mistakes.
We live in a
social economy in which criticism is a currency. Social media allows us to fire
shots across bows we likely would never approach in person. Anonymous jesters
fire criticism and critique without provocation. Beating someone else to the
punch is considered of higher virtue than taking the time to ensure the punch
is well-placed or even necessary.
Not all criticism
is beneficial. Not all critics are right. At the same time, as sinful social
people, we do need correction from others. Warranted or unwarranted, each of us
will face critics and criticism. So how should we handle them?
1. Listen to your critic
immediately shut down a critic, you are assuming you have no blind spots or
areas of improvement. Criticism is not always bad. In fact, many proverbs speak
favorably of criticism from those who care for us. Listening reflectively to
criticism allows an offended party to be heard and offers us the opportunity to
open a door of self-examination, perhaps previously unconsidered. Don’t shut
the door on every critic. There are some you need to invite in.
2. Appreciate your critic
seeking to bring an issue to our attention does so with a good motive. They may
not handle it well or express it in a way that prevents a sting. Looking beyond
the words of a critic, however, allows us to see the heart behind the
criticism. We want to be and do what is best. A critic likely wants that for us
as well. Seek to appreciate the heart behind someone’s criticism, even if you
don’t appreciate the content.
3. Evaluate the criticism
Even if a critic
does have an uncharitable disposition toward you, they may not be wrong in
their criticism. Recognize that we all have blind spots, and however poorly a
person may have handled a critique, ask yourself and someone else you trust
whether or not there is something valuable in a criticism for you to address.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You may dismiss a critic, but
don’t completely discount their perspective.
4. Apply the criticism
have many applications. They may serve to show us a sin of which we need to
repent. They may help open our eyes to another’s perspective. They may simply
reveal a fault of the critic themselves. Either way, receiving criticism never
ends in merely hearing it. One must ask what there is to gain from receiving criticism.
Some critics just
want to hurt others. They are jerks.
Some critics want
our good, but don’t handle it well. They are trying.
Some critics we
welcome, knowing they have our best at heart and have been given access to our
lives as those with a valuable perspective. They are friends.
sting. Our gut reaction is often to label any critic as a jerk when they may genuinely
be trying to be a friend. Don’t be quick to dismiss criticism. Prayerfully
listen, appreciate, evaluate and apply what others afford us from their
perspective. It just may do us some good.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” –
Twenty-four years of mustering.
Twenty-four years of working hard to craft perfect holiday memories, not for myself, but for my family and others, and I’ve enjoyed far less of it than I care to admit.
Why? Because no matter how hard I tried or how carefully I planned, something always went wrong.
The one-year-old hated organic icing just as much as mom and dad do and wouldn’t touch his birthday cake for pictures.
The eighteen-month-old had a diaper blow out that ruined her dress on the way to church Easter morning.
Someone got the stomach bug on Christmas Eve.
The tooth fairy put so much energy into the cute note that she forgot the cash… again.
The best friend couldn’t make it to the birthday party.
The new sauce pan heated more quickly than the old one, so everyone smelled like scorched corn on Thanksgiving.
A relative who shall remain nameless thought it would be a great idea to give a taxidermied puppy as a Christmas gift to the child who had been wanting a real one for years.
You can’t possibly know, control, and/or remember everything and everyone. Did you know that? Well, it took me a long time to learn.
The unplanned, unscripted moments, though, now those are another story altogether. The moments I never expected to be filled with wonderful? Those have been the absolute best.
Truth be told, if the images I replay in my head when I’m feeling nostalgic were to be downloaded into a scrapbook for everyone to see, you’d find very few party hats or holiday decorations.
Instead, you’d see my infant daughter sound asleep on my husband’s chest for the hundredth night in a row.
You’d see my three-year-old son asking Jesus into his heart all by himself, smackdab in the middle of his Hot Wheels, because “you don’t need mommies for that, just God.”
You’d see my kindergarten daughter lagging behind on our walk home from school, her expectant eyes heavenward because “Jesus could come back any minute.”
You’d see the kids playing Legos and Barbies in the hall instead of their rooms just so they could be near each other.
You’d see my family gathered around our daughter’s bed in the evenings for Junie B. Jones and prayers.
Listen, friends, holidays and special events are good. They serve a function and have their place, to be sure, but it’s up to us to make sure they stay in their place and don’t distract us from what’s really important.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Prov. 19:21).
Life is not a party. For the Christian, it’s a mission trip, and we don’t get to set the itinerary. If we fixate on the photo ops, we might miss out on what’s truly meaningful.
This holiday season, why don’t we all put expectation aside and leave the mustering up to God so we can appreciate and participate in the wonderful He has planned?
Let’s face it: Nothing was going to go exactly the way we envisioned it anyway.
If you’ve been
following the landscape of television over the past few years, you’ve noticed
the cresting wave of services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime leaving
traditional cable television powerhouses clamoring in the shadows.
Of course, as the
digital revolution has taken place, it has seen the deconstruction of many
media types (I’ll forever miss you Compact Discs) and has created new
formidable foes for media outlets previously considered to be untouchable
mainstays. It’s showbiz Marxism.
Like any teenager
will tell you, however, the adjustment from sprouting youth to king of the
mountain is an awkward transition and has its unfortunate bumps along the road.
When our consumption habits change, there is often a fair amount of
Many believed the
most significant adjustment for our society was in cutting the cord and letting
cable fall into the abyss through the echoes of standard definition TV and
headphone jacks. Consumers (as I’m sure they told you…multiple times) gave up
on traditional cable packages and opted for single services like Sling,
YouTubeTV, Hulu, Roku and others to satisfy their immediate viewing desires.
Of course, where
the money flows the company goes. Sensing this lemming stampede, major networks
have begun launching their own places for digital premium content. No longer
can one simply tune in to the game on ESPN. You now need to buy ESPN+. Want to
see the newest NBC show? You’ll have to fork over the cash for Peacock, the NBC Universal streaming
All of this is in
response to companies like Apple and Disney seeking to consolidate content and
place it behind protective barriers from the everyday consumer. It’s an all-out
cash grab, and fortresses are being hastily constructed. Each one is
accessible, of course, for an additional $4.99 per month.
If this sounds
confusing to you, then you are in the right boat. Not only is this a
frustrating time for the average Joe, but it’s a time when more is being asked
from the consumer and less is available for the price.
So what is one to
do in this shifting climate? Quit.
Now may be the
best time for you to quit TV. If that sounds impossible, at least consider this
a time to drastically reduce the hold entertainment has in your life. According
to a recent Neilson report, the average American watches more than 34 hours of
television each week (including movies and other video-related screen time).
That is almost a day and a half per week. What could you do with an additional
day and a half at your disposal?
In a recent
article for lifehack.org, writer
Craig Dewe observes several concerns directly related to time spent in front of
Dewe observes not
only the rampant negativity displayed in everything from reality TV to network
news but notes, “In comedies, we laugh at the stupid/overweight/socially
awkward/racial stereotype/different people. The news is filled with stories of
pain/suffering/disaster/death and arguing. Drama has to be about problems in
order to create the drama. All of this is affecting your outlook on life and
the way you see the world.”
fact that TV creates unrealistic expectations and feelings of inadequacy, Dewe
notes the basic effects of sitting immobile for hours and losing grip on the
battle for self-discipline can harm our bodies physically, our minds
emotionally and our spirits spiritually.
If you have ever
considered pulling back on entertainment programming, there has never been a
better time than now. As the networks are shifting from their global Pangea and
every commercial is a carrot for another $4.99 per month to hand out, consider
sitting this one out.
If you are
someone who benefits from certain TV shows, consider time away as a sabbath or
a summer hiatus. Pull the plug and wait until the hierarchy is re-established
and content can flow to the consumer in ways that benefit not just your mind,
but your wallet as well.
Quit TV and see
what happens. Go outside. See a human. Read a book. Make an informed decision
of your choosing. You may find that real life can offer all the entertainment
Leave the drama
to the networks.
From a deep sleep, I sit up straight and grab my phone.
It’s early. Too
early. Something must be wrong.
Turns out, it isn’t.
A bleary-eyed text scan reveals everyone is safe and
healthy. No one is stranded, threatened,
Still, my heart beats hard, each thump sending waves of ache
and longing down my arms and into my fingertips.
Someone is unhappy. Deeply
Too far away to offer even a hug, I can’t fix it, and the
focus I worked so hard to cultivate as I head into another full day of creative
work is gone.
This happened a long time ago, but I’m telling you, friends,
sometimes I feel like I’m living three lives at once! When it gets to be too much, I try to remind
myself of the following truths.
Happiness is relative. Happiness is an emotional response to stimuli. We may not be able to change those stimuli, but
we can adjust our focus, perspective,
Happiness isn’t the baseline. Happiness falls on the positive side of the
sliding emotional scale. It is not the
norm. We must be grateful for the
Happiness doesn’t last. Human emotion, good or bad, cannot be maintained forever. Sooner or later, we all return to baseline,
if only for a little while.
Happiness isn’t the end goal. Christ-likeness is.
If God put Jesus through trials to shape Him (Heb. 2:10), we should
expect Him to do the same with us.
Happiness can actually interfere with
God’s plan. Happiness breeds complacency. We don’t tend to tinker with things we don’t perceive
to be broken. If God wants us to change
trajectory, He often applies a little pressure or removes an element of comfort.
Unhappiness pushes believers to
Jesus. Only the hurt need healing, and those
who know Jesus know He is the cure. If
they don’t go to Him first with their pain, they will once they discover
nothing else satisfies as deeply or for as long.
Unhappiness breeds compassion. We can’t effectively minister to those with whom we can’t
identify. If we hope to help the
hurting, we must experience some level of hurt ourselves.
You can’t fully appreciate happiness until
you experience unhappiness.
Those who never know unhappiness never
cultivate joy. Happiness ebbs and flows because it
relies on factors in constant flux. Joy
remains because it depends on Jesus, Who does not change (Heb. 13:8). If we never find ourselves tossed about by
emotion, we may never reach for the rock of our salvation or learn to abide in
If the Enemy is responsible for my
children’s unhappiness, I could be the target.
If I allow
myself to be crippled by the Enemy’s attacks, doesn’t it stand to reason he’ll
keep his aim on my children steady? Also,
parenting is only one of the jobs God has given me. No matter my kids’ interpretation of or response
to their own circumstances, I have a calling of my own and a life of obedience
to live (Eph. 4:1).
The truth is, no matter how hard I try to retrain it, my
heart will always beat for three people.
It helps to know, however, that the weight of responsibility for my
children’s happiness is not mine to bear.
news, not only because a momma’s hugs and kisses only go so far, but because the
Father alone knows what’s best both for my kids and the Kingdom. Speaking of which, Heaven—with its dried up tears and all (Rev. 21:4)—is
looking better all the time, don’t you think?